"Ask the Advocate" is our forum to bring you answers to questions that are timely and important to families of students with disabilities. I will ask Lorraine Hightower, Dyslexia Advocate and Consultant, your top questions and bring her answers to YOU!
Summertime is here and that often leads parents to think about finding extra help for their children to help avoid that “summer slide.” Do you recommend students with dyslexia work with a private tutor over the summer?
It is impossible to make a blanket recommendation for all children with dyslexia. Every child, and every family’s needs are different… especially coming out of this very difficult year in education. Some families need to take a break, other families may have been able to acquire Covid 19 Recovery Services for their child and may not need to hire additional help, while some families are in need of a private tutor to avoid the “summer slide” you mentioned or make additional gains in closing their achievement gap. While I can tell you the benefits of hiring a private tutor and provide advice as to how to choose the appropriate tutor, whether or not to choose a tutor for the summer is a very personal decision. To help you make that decision, take a look at our blog “Taking a Break this Summer...Without Losing Progress”.
What are some of the benefits of working with a tutor over the summer?
The biggest benefit to working with a qualified tutor on appropriate, evidence based structured literacy reading instruction over the summer is to maintain (and possibly improve) foundational literacy skills while building automaticity. Children who are being taught to read with a structured literacy approach are first taught letter sounds and then “sound symbol” skills in isolation. Once those skills are mastered, children begin to build automaticity in their reading. Automaticity means that they can quickly use their “sound symbol” knowledge to accurately decode unknown words, which then leads to improved reading fluency. If a child has been learning skills in isolation, but has not yet reached automaticity, they may regress without frequent repetition of these skills. Regression would lead to having to do repair work in the fall and will most likely impact the child’s overall reading fluency.
For older students, getting help over the summer may open up their academic schedule to enjoy their choice of electives. Often, older students who need reading remediation must give up their electives in order to fit in their targeted reading instruction during the school day. It may be worth engaging a qualified tutor so that your child doesn’t have to sacrifice the classes they want in order to get the remediation they need.
Finally, students can often make gains in their progress over the summer. Because there are no other classes or academic obligations during this time, students can completely focus on their reading instruction. Working with a qualified tutor for one on one instruction can be highly effective. I have seen students move ahead a full grade level over the span of a summer!
How do parents know if a tutor is qualified to teach their dyslexic child reading?
This is the most important question and one that can mean the difference between wasted time and
educational transformation. Some parents hire older students or licensed teachers to help their child over the summer. While this may be beneficial for a “neuro-typical” student, research shows that students with should be taught to read with a multisensory, structured, explicit, systematic approach that is taught in a sequential and cumulative order, requiring mastery at each level. Well intentioned general education teachers may not have the training necessary to move the needle for a student with dyslexia.
The evidence based methodology that I mentioned above, and is proven to work for children with dyslexia, is an Orton-Gillingham based program such as Wilson, Lindamood-Bell, Sounds in Syllables, Barton, SPIRE, etc. I recommend that parents find tutors who are certified to teach these programs as they have the ability to pivot their teaching in order to meet their students' unique needs. Too often teachers attend professional development sessions on how to use the Orton-Gillingham approach but lack the technical expertise that comes with certification.
To help my clients find the right tutor or language therapist we’ve created a resource called Remediation Experts: Who’s Who in the World of Dyslexia Support. I’m happy to share it with everyone! It explains the different levels of professionals who may be hired to help your child, from a neighborhood tutor to a Certified Academic Therapist, so that you can choose the professional that is right for your child. It also includes links to directories to find a tutor or language therapist close to you.
Click the image to download your free guide to finding the right tutor for your needs!
What advice do you have for parents who may have a child who is resistant to working over the summer?
🌟 Find the right tutor for your child.
Not only must your child’s tutor be qualified to teach with the appropriate instruction, they must also have the ability to connect with your child and make learning fun. Some tutors may come highly recommended, but if they fail to connect with your child the experience may end up being a waste of time and money.
I recommend you find a tutor that has experience teaching your child’s age group and children with your child’s disability profile. For instance, if your child is in first grade and has dyslexia and ADHD, a tutor who incorporates movement, games, and breaks into their teaching will have better success with your child.
🌟 Schedule morning sessions.
If your child is hesitant to attend a tutoring session, schedule it early and let them get it over with, thus avoiding a sense of dread about the upcoming session. When it’s over, their day is open to them and they still have time to join their friends for summer fun!
Also, studies show that students are more likely to work efficiently on and perform better on more difficult academic tasks in the morning. Nolan G. Pope, in his 2016 study said, “The finding that productivity is higher in the morning than the afternoon allows for efficiency gains to be obtained.” He suggests that schools schedule Math and English classes in the morning to increase test scores and GPAs. The same logic applies to scheduling your child’s tutoring sessions.
🌟 Use Incentives.
The use of incentives is a hotly debated topic amongst parents and teachers. As always, you should choose what is best for your family and fits with your parenting style. I can say from my own experience, that using incentives has been helpful with my own son.
I recommend using a wide variety of creative incentives that suit your child’s preferences. While young children enjoy small toys and trinkets, incentives do not have to be things. They can include time spent doing something special with a parent or loved one, a coupon for opting out of a food they don’t like at dinner time, or “DJ privileges” on your next family car ride. Be creative to find the things that make your child smile and motivate them to do their best.
🌟 Work in breaks and vacations.
Everyone needs a break! Take a look at our blog, “Taking a Break This Summer, Without Losing Progress” to find out the best way to work these breaks in, while still taking part in effective tutoring.
What questions would you ask a tutor before hiring them?
Hiring the right tutor is so important that it is critical to make sure that you ask the right questions before you bring them on board. You want to ask questions that allow them to speak to their qualifications to provide effective remediation, but also to learn more about their personality and teaching style, so that you can see if they are the right fit for your family. Here are the questions that I would ask:
Are you certified in the methodology or curriculum that you teach?
In which specific program(s) is your certification or training?
How long have you been teaching with this approach?
How many students have you taught?
Can you share some references?
Please tell me about the scope and sequence of instruction that is planned for my child.
What ages of students do you teach?
Are you comfortable supporting other disabilities? (such as ADHD or whatever may apply to your child)
Will you do pre and post assessments to measure summer progress?
Would you be willing to consult and collaborate with the school team?
Do you work one-on-one or in a small group setting?
When is your availability?
You are putting a lot of faith into the person you hire as your child’s tutor. You are entrusting them to help your child make the gains necessary to change their future. It’s a BIG job! By making sure that they are highly qualified and a good fit for your child, you will be more likely to see the progress you desire for your child.
Do you need help creating a plan for your dyslexic child’s education or advocating to get an effective plan in place? Are you ready to see your child learn and thrive in school? If so, I can help! I have helped countless families transform the lives of their children, and create more peace and harmony at home.
While it isn’t always easy, it CAN happen, and I will support you every step of the way. Find out how I can help your family during a complimentary Discovery Call. I would love to talk with you about your child and how I might make a difference for them and your family!